If you’ve looked around for ways to fix broken PC components, you might have come across articles and videos explaining the “baking” technique. That technique is putting the ruined component in an oven and literally baking it until it’s “done”.
Before asking how it works, the natural question to answer is IF it works. Well, short answer is, it might.
If you manage to fix it though, keep working on getting a replacement because the time it’s going to keep working after it’s baked, is rather random and depends on many factors, so it might break down again after approximately a few months or years. The good news is that even if it does break down again, you can bake it again to repair it and keep that cycle going for a long time.
I’ve had something like 50% success rate baking graphics cards.
I’ve baked around 5 graphics cards. Three of them didn’t get repaired, but that was kind of normal since only one of them had symptoms that were likely to be fixed by baking. However I managed to repair the one of the two successful cards twice, hence the 50% rate.
That card was repaired by baking, but possibly due to some mistakes I made in the process, it broke down again a few months later, only to be resurrected again a few years later when I needed it again.
Now lets see how something as weird as baking a PC component, might actually fix it.
A component can break down for many reasons, apart from the obvious physical damage cause.
For example it could be relatively weak or old and the electricity passing through it eventually ruins it.
It could also be that there was a short-circuit somewhere that broke it.
The thing that baking can fix though, is micro fractures that are caused by fluctuations in temperature that happen as the component heats up and cools down while being used or when it’s shut down.
The heat creating while baking the component can enable the material on the board to become semi-liquid and reflow in the micro fractures, which repairs them.
The reason why this repair often fails, is that the cause of the problem might be something different, like blown up capacitors or other kinds of random damage.
Before you go ahead and bake a component, which should always be a last ditch effort that you try only if your warranty has expired, you can do a little search on the kind of the component that you want to bake(maybe even the specific model) and whether others have had success with doing that.
The reflow technique is most often used with graphics cards, especially older ones, which due to their nature and the work they do, often experience tremendous temperature fluctuations. That makes them prone to getting micro fractures and start malfunctioning.
The classic signs of a malfunctioning graphics card that can most likely be fixed with reflowing, are graphical artifacts that appear on the screen out of nowhere. They look something like this (there are many variations in shape/colour/severity):
If the problem has gotten to a severe enough level, the card might be unable to give a visual signal to the monitor, so you literally get a black screen or a no signal message.
And now for the recipe.
What you’re going to need:
A large enough baking pan to fit the component
Begin by stripping the component of any part that might get damaged in the oven(plastic covers, fans, thermal pads, removable brackets etc..). You need to be left with the main board of the component and nothing unnecessary attached to it.
This can be done by using a screwdriver to unscrew and remove everything removable that’s attached to the board. Make sure you take pictures before you remove each part, if you are not sure how to put it back in or where to put it. Also clear any thermal paste that might be on the component. Replace the thermal paste when you’re done baking, but only replace it with non-conductive thermal paste(like the Arctic MX-4) to avoid having it leak onto the component and potentially short circuit anything. Take care not to ruin or lose any thermal pads that you might find inside, because those are a bit expensive to replace. They look something like this:
Get a baking pan and put a piece of tinfoil in it. The tinfoil must cover the whole pan.
Make 3-4 small balls of tinfoil (as even in size as possible) and place them in the pan in a way that you can balance the component on them.
Make sure the component is not shaking around and is stable enough to ensure that it won’t fall off the supporting tinfoil balls while you move the pan around.
Preheat the oven to 200C and put the component in it for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes have passed, take the component out of the oven and let it cool for at least half an hour (let it cool for as long as possible to make sure). Then you can put it back into the computer and see if it works.
There is going to be plenty of terrible smell getting out of that oven, which I’m pretty sure will shorten your lifespan to an extent, but hey, it’s worth it! Either way, have a plan on how to get air inside to get rid of the smell and if possible, sit in a different room so that you don’t have to breathe it in too much.
Alright so that’s why and how you can bake PC components. Hopefully you or someone you know has something like an old dead graphics card that you would like to bring back to life and either use it or sell it. You can also take it to a professional for a more “proper” fix, but that’s not free and it’s not that much fun either! Not to mention that it will likely still break down again a while later.
In any case, I hope this guide has been useful.
If you have any questions, suggestions or even disagreements, please comment them on here and we can talk about them. You can also email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thanks for reading!
*All pictures are taken from the web*